All or Nothing

February 21, 2013

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We often get very difficult questions in our bible school; questions which have no answers which completely satisfy.

Why does the Bible not condemn slavery?
How come the writers did not promote equality of the sexes?
Why can’t women speak in church in the Bible?

The list goes on and on. Today’s modern issues of abortion, poverty, and homosexuality are increasingly addressed as well.

When our students ask about thing regarding slavery, war, etc.; our best answers comes from the perspective the Bible (and its writers) engage in societies with real issues.  Since the Bible is clear the world is broken, fallen, and is not the way it was created; the interaction we see (or don’t see) is God taking culture and society in moving closer it to His standard.

It is correct to say the Bible never condemns slavery. But, a better question might be, did the Bible impact slavery?

Would the apostle Paul’s message been received if he came to Rome where 50% of the population were slaves and condemned it? Probably not.

Rather he brought reform in how slavery was conducted; through seeing believing slaves as brothers (Philemon), and bringing higher standards to an institution which existed already.

Within the Christian world, these reforms led to its abolishment (at least temporarily) in these parts of the world among the church. Later we see people such as William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln being inspired by these truths.

This would have never happened if Paul came in blasting slavery, taking an all or nothing approach.

The same could be said of issues with women. Rather than preach equality from Day 1 (although Genesis does), Paul started with women gaining the ability to be educated and went from there. We often focus on them not being able to speak in church. But the revolutionary, shocking idea Paul promoted was for them to be educated (which would in turn allow them to speak).

A huge mistake we make today is in an all or nothing approach. God often promotes progress over utopia (heaven on earth.) There was progress in slavery and women’s rights.

Take the contemporary abortion example. I fully believe abortion is immoral and desire to see less abortions. Does this need to happen by making it illegal? In an ideal world, yes. But the goal of believers should be less abortions rather than more.

So if less abortions can be accomplished by health care,financial assistance for single moms, or any other way; believers need to consider if this helps their cause. While hoping for a legal change, perhaps Christians need to focus on progress rather than an all or nothing, heaven on Earth approach.

These principles work in nation building or community development where change does not occur overnight. Democracy does not take root in the Middle East because someone proclaims it should. True change takes at least a generation. True change does not come by legislation, but by transformation of hearts and minds. 

This is true in nations, as well as our personal lives. God does not expect perfection from us as soon as we become believers. Instead, He knows our journey with Him should involve progress, taking us closer to his standards.

Whether in morality, politics, or even our personal growth; we want to move closer to a godly standard; trusting over time to see the full resolution of our hopes. This does not mean we compromise our standards, but rather we walk in wisdom trusting God to build progress; moving things towards the ultimate goal.

What do you think about an All or Nothing approach? How can we appreciate progress while not compromising our beliefs?

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God